Crash Into Me ONLY
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a Shaken Dirty novel by USA TODAY bestselling author Tracy Wolff

She’s totally off limits, but this rocker wants a taste…

Jamison Matthews has lusted after Ryder Montgomery since she was a preteen. But now that Ryder and her brother’s band, Shaken Dirty, has made it huge, she’s just one of many pining for the brooding lead singer. Too bad Ryder still sees her as a little sister. Not that it matters. Her brother would never allow it, and the last thing Jamison wants is to be another notch on a rock star’s bed post. Even if it’s Ryder’s.

Ryder doesn’t deserve happiness. After his fame destroyed his last girlfriend, he swore he’d never fall in love again. So when Jamison, the girl he’s been in danger of loving for years, joins the band on the road, he’ll do anything to deny the sparks between them—even after one hot night together. But Jamison is determined to show Ryder that he’s worthy of love—her love—and that she’s all grown up…and ready to play.

 

Information:

Title: Crash into Me (Shaken Dirty, #1)
Author: Tracy Wolff
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Length: 295 pages
Release Date: October 2013
ISBN: 978-1-62266-349-1
Imprint: Brazen Special Edition
 
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Excerpt:

© 2013 Tracy Wolff

Chapter One

His voice roared over her. Loud, sexy, and so richly decadent that she felt her limbs going loose with excitement. With arousal. With need. Jamison Matthews knew she wasn’t the only woman in the audience to feel that way while listening to Ryder Montgomery sing—his deep, raspy baritone was one long mind-and-body-fuck—but that didn’t make it any less powerful. Neither did the fact that she’d been listening to it for ten long years—ever since she was a thirteen-year-old kid with a crush on the lead singer of her brother’s band.

Some things didn’t change.

And some things did. Shaken Dirty had come a long way from the teenage garage band they’d once been. The tens of thousands of screaming fans currently filling this very amphitheater attested to that. As did the bras and panties that haphazardly littered the stage. Her brother, Jared, had picked up a sheer red thong and draped it over the neck of his guitar, while Micah’s bass was decorated with lacy purple boy shorts. Totally disgusting, if she let herself dwell on where those panties had been just a short time before.

But she wasn’t going to do that, wasn’t going to let anything mar her enjoyment of the show. Being here, watching her brother play with the others in the middle of this gigantic venue, co-headlining the Rock On tour with some of the hottest bands around, was a dream come true. She wouldn’t waste a second of it.

The song ended and the crowd went nuts, screaming and whistling, chanting and shouting. Begging for more. Jamison went nuts right along with them, didn’t even mind when the surging fans pressed her closer and closer to the barricade that kept eager devotees off the stage. That was her big brother up on that stage. Her big brother, and Ryder, and Wyatt, and Quinn, and Micah. They’d come a long way since Jared had let her listen in while they’d practiced in the garage, and she couldn’t be more proud. After all they’d been through, they’d finally made it.

Unlike her.

For a second, panic threatened at the disaster her life had become practically overnight. It wasn’t the accident that hadn’t been her fault but had left her with a totaled car anyway—a car that had been worth only three thousand dollars, which gave her pretty much no chance of buying a reliable replacement for the amount the insurance would pony up.

Nor was it that her douchebag boyfriend had dumped her while she was down. Sure, she’d thought she was in love with Charles, but in retrospect she was willing to admit that there had been some major red flags in their relationship. Chief among them was his inability to keep his zipper up around other women.

Not even the fact that the closest friend she’d made since moving to San Diego had been sleeping with her douchebag of a boyfriend had made her feel this tied up in knots. She’d thought Lisa was pretty cool, but her friend—make that her ex-friend—had never made a secret of her freewheeling morals.

But losing her job this morning—a job she’d loved and had invested so much of her time in—had been the piece de resistance on top of the shit-pile her life had recently become. Especially considering she’d uprooted her whole life to move to San Diego less than six months before just so she could take the stupid job. It was the first step on the ten-year plan she’d had for her life, a plan that now lay in utter ruins around her.

She wanted to crawl back into bed and forget the last forty-eight hours had ever happened. Or, barring that, rewind the clock so that she could have seen coming some of the crap that had been heaped on her. Not all of it, obviously, but it might have been nice to know the restaurant where she’d landed her first big job out of cooking school was having to close before she’d bought, and worn, the most gorgeous pair of Louboutins she’d ever seen. Or before Charles had forced her to listen to his diatribe of all the reasons he’d cheated on her, reasons that were, of course, completely her fault.

She’d called bullshit on him, but still. Standing here with all these women, so many of whom were skinnier and prettier than her, only gave his words credence in her head. Not to mention the last thing she should be doing right now was screaming along with a bunch of Shaken Dirty fans while fantasizing about the lead singer of her brother’s band.

Onstage, the band launched into “Awake,” one of the power ballads that had made them famous. The crowd screamed their approval and so did she. Totally not her typical modus operandi, but she couldn’t help it. Something about listening to Ryder croon the darkly haunting lyrics had her knees trembling and her heart beating much too quickly. If she closed her eyes, she could do what all the other women in the audience were doing and pretend that he was singing straight to her.

So much better than remembering he’d written these heartfelt words for another woman. For Carrie, who had killed herself and broken his heart so many years before. Her own heart ached at the thought. For him. Always for him. At twenty-nine, Ryder had already been through more darkness and despair than any one person should have to handle.

“Awake” finally came to a close, the last note hanging in the air for long, tension-fueled seconds. Then the band fell silent and the audience did the same, as if they were all holding their breaths. Ryder lowered his guitar, shuffled, and stamped his feet once, twice. It was a familiar gesture, one years of experience had taught her was his way of shaking off excess emotion. Again her heart twisted. It devastated her that more than ten years after the fact he was still eaten up by what had happened. Still determined to bury it under a bunch of layers that not only insulated him from his pain but also hid the real Ryder so deep inside the public Ryder that she wondered sometimes if he even existed anymore. Or if the boy who had held her while she cried, who had let her whisper her pre-adolescent fears without ever making fun of her, had disappeared forever.

She searched for him in that one endless moment.

Looked for him in the obsidian eyes that arrowed to the heart of the crowd even as they barricaded his own emotions.

Combed through her own memories and expectations in an effort to see Ryder as he really was instead of how he portrayed himself.

And when his eyes—his crazy, beautiful eyes—met hers, she found him. Seconds passed, long, intense seconds where she lost the ability to hear or breathe or even think. All she could do was look into Ryder’s eyes, at the feral heat boiling up and out of them, and want.

She smiled at him, waved. He snarled back. But it wasn’t a leave-me-alone snarl. No, definitely not. It was his I-want-to-fuck-you-up-against-a-wall snarl—she knew it well, had seen it directed at a lot of women through the years—and her knees gave way when she realized that this time, finally, it was directed at her. It didn’t matter that there was no sign of recognition in his eyes, no knowledge that the woman he was looking at like that was actually her. Jamison. For one moment, he wanted her the way she’d always wanted him.

It was more than enough.

And then Jared thrust a hand in the air and the moment was gone. The silence shattered, the crowd exploding in catcalls, screams, and whistles, pleas for more mingling with pledges of undying love. It was awe-inspiring, yet humbling, to witness. She still remembered the guys as lanky teenagers beating out a rhythm in her garage. As struggling musicians driving up and down the coast to play at dives that barely paid. As an opening act to bands much bigger and better than they were.

She watched as Ryder flirted with the crowd a little in true lead singer fashion. Women screamed in response, while men shouted and cheered. And when Ryder walked to the edge of the stage and switched out the acoustic guitar for his electric one, Jamison felt herself swoon right along with the others. She couldn’t help it. This had always been her favorite part of the show and when they’d gotten so close to the end of their set without it making an appearance, she’d worried they’d cut it.

Jared stepped forward as well, told the crowd to “Make some fucking noise!”

Much feet-stomping and clapping ensued, and Jamison was right there with the rest of the audience, screaming herself hoarse as Ryder and her brother teased them into a frenzy. And then, just when it felt like the amphitheater was going to explode from excitement, they dueled.

It was the most beautiful, the most perfect, thing she had ever seen. Her brother was in his element, huge smile on his face, fingers flying over the guitar strings so fast at times that they seemed to blur. On and on he played, his talent as mind-blowing as his grin was infectious, until finally he reached a shattering crescendo.

The last notes of his solo were still ringing through the amphitheater when he stepped back and Ryder took over.

Though he was the band’s front man, Ryder was almost as good a guitarist as her brother. But where Jared was totally engaging and fun to watch, listening to Ryder play was like opening a conduit straight to the rawest part of the human soul. It was amazing and terrifying in equal measures, and so spellbinding that he caught an audience of thirty thousand in his web and held them there, suspended, as his guitar wailed in agonized ecstasy.

Suddenly Ryder hit a particularly complicated series of chords and the fans behind her shouted their approval. He grinned—a dark, haunting twist of his lips that came and went so quickly that she almost thought she’d imagined it. Except she was pressed up against the stage now, so close that she could see his eyes. Deep and dark though they were, for a minute, just a minute, she’d glimpsed a flash of pure enjoyment. And then she lost it as he tilted his head forward so that his chin-length black hair fell over his face, obscuring him for long seconds from the prying eyes of the crowd.

She took advantage of the moment, studied him the way she’d always wanted. Normally, when he was around, she was too afraid of being caught watching him to look her fill. But tonight she didn’t need to worry about that. He’d already proved he couldn’t see her clearly when he failed to recognize her earlier. That was all the encouragement she needed to gawk at him.

At his long, lean body that towered seven inches above her own five-eight.

At his tanned, muscular arms with their gorgeous sleeves of tattoos—black tribal bands on one and a phoenix on the other.

At the nipple piercing outlined by the tight fit of his black V-neck T-shirt.

He was gorgeous—wicked, dark, and so, so lovely with his too-pretty face—and she knew when she crawled into her lonely bed tonight, this image of him would be burned into her brain.

Head bowed, lost in his own little world, Ryder played another complicated set of notes that ended so abruptly the audience flinched a little, she along with them. Then he stepped back so that Jared could once again take the spotlight.

On and on it went, the two of them dueling until their fingers had to be burning. The audience was beside itself, women—and men—screaming themselves hoarse, the crowd literally seething with delight.

And then Jared and Ryder backed up to each other and played the last section together, their fingers flying faster and faster over the guitar strings until their separate notes blurred into the most amazing sound she had ever heard.

Their shirts grew drenched, their faces grew taut, and still they played.

Their arms trembled visibly at the strain, their shoulders bowed in protest, and still they played.

Finally, finally, the last notes rang through the amphitheater—loud, gorgeous, flawless—along with a kickass pyrotechnic display that took her breath away, and she didn’t know whether to weep or to cheer. They’d always wanted to include special effects like those, but had never been able to afford it before this tour.

Shaken Dirty really had hit the big time.

The crowd behind her didn’t have any of her confused reticence. They went crazy as fire exploded across the stage.

Jared—ham that he was—stepped up to the microphone and thrust both fists in the air as he claimed victory.

Ryder only laughed, his low, husky voice carrying through the amphitheater as he told the crowd, “Just go along with Jared. We like to let him think he wins, or he’ll spend the rest of the night pouting.”

“Fuck you, Ryder! I did win! Right, guys?” Jared held his arms out to the crowd and gestured for their support. Soon half the place was chanting his name.

“Good job!” Ryder said with a sexy wink. “He’ll never suspect a thing. But just to be clear. We all know who really won, right?”

The other half of the audience began screaming for Ryder, and once again Jamison found herself right there with them. Oh, she knew Jared was technically the better guitarist, but Ryder’s sound was amazing. He was dark to Jared’s light, brooding and dangerous to Jared’s good time. He attacked his guitar, made violent love to the instrument while Jared cradled his like a baby.

Both sounds worked, and worked well, but watching Ryder was like watching sex in motion. It totally revved her engine, even as she knew nothing would come of it. She’d thrown herself at him once when she was seventeen and been rejected—albeit as nicely as Ryder was capable of rejecting someone—but it had still stung. She wouldn’t make that mistake again, would have to be content to worship him from afar instead. Just like every other woman in the place.

As they launched into “Battleground,” their most famous single to date, Ryder ripped off his shirt and tossed it into the crowd. It landed a little to the right of her and the people around her went nuts trying to get to it. Jamison didn’t move, though. She couldn’t, not when all that bronze skin and that perfect eight-pack of abs was on display. Not when he was standing up there, the black tribal tattoos that covered his torso just adding to the image of the sex god the media portrayed him to be.

She shuddered, pressed her legs together to stop the burn even as she crossed her arms over her suddenly aching breasts.

No, she thought as Ryder continued to sing. The need was nothing new. But this brutal intensity—that had come when he’d thrown that I-want-to-fuck-you look her way and made it impossible to do anything but feel—sure as hell was.

After clawing her way through a mob of crazed fans and flashing her backstage pass at the security guys working the side entrance, Jamison slipped into the small crack they’d opened for her. As the door slammed shut, she couldn’t help the feeling of unreality that overwhelmed her.

All those screaming fans in the audience had been for Shaken Dirty.

All those frantic girls clawing at security—and each other—had been for her brother’s band.

It was beyond bizarre. Oh, from the very beginning, the guys had had girls, lots and lots of girls, sniffing around them. More than once, she’d had to push her way through them to get to the guys. It was part and parcel of the shaggy-haired, rock and roll band thing. But that had been at dingy little clubs when they were just getting their start, back when she’d tagged along anywhere they were willing to bring her. But this, this was different. It was out of a movie—or a Rolling Stone article. The band had hundreds upon hundreds of groupies, all desperate to be shaken. Dirtied.

It was going to take a little while for her to adjust to the new reality, especially when that new reality left her a little bruised and battered. Nothing like battling through a throng of screaming women to take it out of a girl.

Glancing around, she tried to get her bearings. She was at the end of a long, windy hallway. There were a bunch of doors on each side, but none of them were labeled, so she had no idea if one of them was her brother’s dressing room or not. And considering there were four other bands on tour with Shaken Dirty, it probably wouldn’t work for her to just start knocking on random doors. The last thing she wanted was to be kicked out for disturbing “the talent.”

Behind her, the door opened again, and two girls squeezed through. They were young, barely nineteen or twenty if she was to hazard a guess, and very, very excited.

“Omigod!” squealed the one with the shortest skirt and heaviest makeup. “I can’t believe that worked!”

Her friend grinned. “I told you. Now remember, you can have anyone you want—except Ryder. He is all mine.”

“I know, I know. I like Micah anyway. He’s sooooo cute and nowhere near as kinky as Ryder.”

“Hey, kinky can be good. The more you let them do to you, the more they like you. And Ryder can do anything he wants to me. All that dark sexiness really turns me on.”

Jamison stiffened at the proprietary note in the girl’s voice. She didn’t even know Ryder yet she was talking about him like she was aware of his every little secret. Even worse, like she knew he and the other guys would be more than willing to use her in whatever way she’d let them—and that apparently Ryder had a kinky side Jamison had never even imagined.

The thought sent a little shiver of awareness down her spine, but she ignored it. Ryder had already rejected her once and if he’d sunk to one-night stands with teenagers—teenagers, for God’s sake—she didn’t want him anyway.

But even as she was selling herself on that, her traitorous mind couldn’t help going back to that moment when he’d stared at her. Snarled at her. Made her want him more than she’d ever wanted anything. If that was the look he gave all the girls, no wonder they were back here, desperate to get to him. No wonder they thought they had a chance with him.

More bothered by that realization than she wanted to admit, Jamison decided to hell with it. Groupies or not, these girls seemed to know so much more about the band than she did right now. It probably couldn’t hurt to follow them—maybe they could get her to the right dressing rooms, at least.

But they hadn’t gone very far before one of the doors opened and a guy she didn’t recognize, but whom they obviously did, drawled, “Hello, girls.”

They squealed loudly enough to break the sound barrier, and then the one who had claimed Ryder for her own flipped her hair back for all she was worth. “Hey, Simon!” She sounded so breathless it was a miracle she’d been able to get the words out at all.

“Hey.” He nodded to her, then stepped back and held the dressing room door open. The girls grabbed onto each other’s hands—out of nervousness or excitement, Jamison wasn’t sure—then darted through the door like the hounds of hell were after them. Or like they thought he was going to change his mind when something better came along.

Simon continued to stand there after they’d disappeared behind him and it took her a minute to realize that he was watching her, a quizzical look on his face. “You coming?” he finally asked.

Her cheeks caught fire. “Uh, no. Thanks.”

“You sure? We’re having quite the party in here.” He let the door fall open a little more, and she got just enough of a glimpse inside to realize he wasn’t exaggerating.

“Actually, I’m here for Jared Montgomery. I’m his sister.”

“Cool.” Simon smiled then, and it lit up his face from within. Made him look like a little boy instead of a rocker who’d been around more blocks than she’d even walked on. He also backed off so quickly she knew that damn pact had struck again. Back in high school, she’d figured out pretty quickly that there was an unspoken agreement among most rock gods—thou sister shall be off limits, whether she wants to be or not.

Jamison didn’t know if that was what had kept Ryder away from her all these years, but she knew it had worked on a bunch of other guys. And since she’d spent most of high school hanging at her brother’s gigs, it had meant her social life had been particularly dismal.

Not that that had changed much, even when the guys weren’t around, but still. It was a valid theory and she was sticking to it.

“Jared’s a good guy,” Simon added with a clumsy pat to her shoulder.

“He is,” she agreed. “You wouldn’t happen to know which dressing room belongs to Shaken Dirty, do you?”

“I think they’re on the other side of the stage.” He gestured vaguely to the left. “Past the entrance to the sound booth.”

They weren’t quite the explicit directions she’d been hoping for, but they would have to do. Especially since he was already closing the door, his attention very obviously somewhere else.

Pulling her cell phone out of her pocket, Jamison pulled up Jared’s number and headed off in the direction she thought Simon had gestured. She’d hoped to surprise her brother by coming tonight instead of tomorrow, but that obviously wasn’t going to happen. Backstage pass or not, she couldn’t just wander around all night knocking on doors and hoping she ran into him.

Stopping for a second at the end of the hallway, she fired off a quick text, then waited impatiently—and in vain—for an answer. Shaken Dirty had been off-stage for fifteen minutes now. Surely Jared should be back in possession of his phone by now. Unless he was in the shower. Or having mad phone sex with his fiancée, something she didn’t want to think about but that was completely believable.

The thought made her a little sick, not because of Jared, obviously, but because that girl’s words kept replaying in her head. Ryder, kinky. Ryder, all mine. Was he even now tying up some barely legal teenybopper and having his dark and wicked way with her? Ugh.

She texted Jared again, more emphatically this time. The last thing she needed was to walk into the middle of that.

She waited a few more minutes, watching as dozens of girls streamed past her, all in groups of two or three. Most of them wore enough makeup to single-handedly supply a MAC store and so few clothes it was a wonder they hadn’t developed hypothermia waiting for their turn to come in. Others were fresh-faced and thrilled to be there and reminded her so much of her high school and college selves that it was painful to look at them. Some days it felt like she’d spent half her life waiting for Ryder to notice her.

Seconds later, Darkness began to play onstage, and Jamison finally decided to hell with it. She crossed the bustling backstage area, doing her best to stay out of the way of the working roadies. A couple of times she’d started to ask for directions, but everyone had looked so busy that she hadn’t wanted to bother them. Plus, the music was so loud back here that they probably wouldn’t be able to hear her anyway—especially since they all wore earplugs.

She was just wishing she’d thought to bring her own set when she stumbled upon a long, winding hallway much like the one she’d entered from. Figuring this was the area Simon had been gesturing to, she headed about halfway down and then knocked on the door that mirrored his. Nothing happened, but she didn’t know if that was because the dressing room was empty or because of the level of sound pouring off the stage.

She pounded again, and this time Darkness wrapped up their opening song at the same time her knuckles were rapping on the wood. They began to banter with the crowd, giving the eardrum-splitting music a rest for a few moments. Thank God.

Seconds later, the door flew open and Max Casey, lead singer for Oblivious, stood there, a grin on his way-too-handsome face. He was shirtless and barefoot, with the top button of his jeans unfastened and a look on his face that screamed trouble.

Jamison knew it was stupid, juvenile, but for long seconds, she couldn’t find her voice. This was Max Casey, singer of one of her favorite bands ever, and he was staring at her like he wanted to go a round right here in the middle of the hallway. She wasn’t tempted in the slightest, but still, all that angst and intensity was nearly palpable. What was it with lead singers anyway? It was like they shot out pheromones that turned every woman within smelling distance into a blithering idiot.

“Come on in,” he said, stepping backward and gesturing her inside.

“No, thanks,” she answered, proud of the fact that she’d managed to untie the knots in her tongue and actually speak in something that resembled English. She wasn’t interested, but she was female, and she’d be lying if she said he hadn’t had an impact on her. “I’m looking for Shaken Dirty.”

“What do you want with them? I promise, we’re a lot more fun.” A chorus of laughter sounded behind him, seeming to underscore his point.

“I’m sure you are, but Jared—”

“Forget Jared. I’m better in bed—and out of it, too.”

What the hell? She tried to picture Ryder or Jared saying something so douchey but couldn’t manage it. Maybe she was more naïve than she thought.

Or maybe Max Casey was just a really big sleaze. Disgust replacing some of her involuntary excitement at meeting him, Jamison took a couple of steps backward. “If you could just point me in the right direction…”

A flicker of anger crossed his face but was gone so quickly that she decided she had imagined it. Especially when he said, “I can do better than that. If you really want to see Jared, I’ll take you there. Things can get pretty confusing back here.”

That was an understatement. Still she hesitated as, behind him, two girls called his name in pouty voices. “I don’t want to take you away from who you were doing.” As soon as the words were out of her mouth, she wanted to take them back. Talk about a Freudian slip. “What! I meant what you were doing.”

But Max just laughed and pulled the door closed behind him. “They’ll keep.” He stepped closer, put a hand on the small of her back as he guided her farther down the hallway.

Jamison stiffened at the proprietary touch and the bitter scent of scotch that clung to him. But when she tried to move away, he wrapped his hand around her waist and pulled her into his side.

“Seriously,” she told him as alarm bells went off in her head. “Jared’s my brother. If you’ll just point me towards his dressing room—”

“Lighten up. I told you I’d take you there, and I will.” The hand around her waist grew tighter, and that’s when she went from being slightly alarmed to seriously starting to freak out.

Still, she couldn’t imagine that she had anything to worry about from Max freakin’ Casey. Especially not when a bunch of people were only about thirty feet away. At the same time, though, she was a big proponent of better safe than sorry.

“Really. I’ve got it.” She moved away, this time shoving at his restraining hand until he was forced to let her go. Then she pulled out her phone. “Jared just texted me,” she lied. “I know where I’m going now.”

“You don’t need to run off so quickly. Stay and talk to me for a few minutes.”

“Jared’s expecting me.” Which wasn’t exactly true, but it wasn’t like she planned to hang around and argue with Max. Not after getting her first good glimpse of his eyes. He was high on a lot more than scotch—and it didn’t look like a particularly nice high, at that.

“Thanks for the help,” she told him, starting down the hallway at a fast clip. She’d only gone a few steps when he grabbed her from behind.

Pushed her face-first up against the wall.

Covered her body with his own.

“What are you doing?” she demanded, feeling once again like she was trapped in an alternate reality.

“You’re going the wrong way.” He leaned forward and pressed his mouth to the back of her neck.

She hunched up her shoulders, tried to squirm away. But he was a lot stronger than he looked, and it only took a few moments for her to realize she wasn’t going anywhere if he didn’t want her to.

“Come on, Max, let go!” She tried to cajole her freedom out of him, but the pounding rhythms had once again begun to roll off stage, and she was reduced to shouting at him.

He just laughed, then put his mouth next to her ear and said, “Don’t worry. You’ll get to Jared soon enough. I just want a taste, to see if you’re as nice and sweet as they all say you are.”

“Let me go!” she screamed, struggling in earnest now that it had begun to sink in that Max didn’t plan to take no for an answer. He was too high or too conceited to understand that she really didn’t want him—that she wasn’t playing hard to get.

Or maybe he just didn’t care. She didn’t know, and it didn’t matter anyway. All that mattered now was getting out of there before she got the full Max Casey treatment. She couldn’t believe she’d ever thought he was attractive.

“Don’t you know who I am?” he demanded as he pressed even closer. “I’m Max Casey. Nobody says no to me.” He sounded so baffled that she might have felt sorry for him if she wasn’t desperately terrified that he was going to rape her right there in the hallway, thirty feet away from dozens of people who couldn’t hear her cries for help.

“No!” she shouted. “No! No! No!” She brought her foot up, tried to catch his shin with her spiked heel—the stupid things should be good for something—but he only moved closer, so that his body was flush against hers, and she had no wiggle room. She nearly gagged when she felt him pressed against her.

“Stop it, Max!” she said, jerking from side to side as hard as she could. But he was holding her so tightly she couldn’t get much traction. “Stop it!” she begged. “Please, please, stop!”

He wasn’t listening, or maybe he was just too high to listen. Either way, her stomach turned as he trailed his wet mouth over her shoulder.

“Come on, baby,” he muttered, jerking her head back so he could press a sloppy kiss to her mouth. “Just let it happen.”

She bit him then, clamping her teeth down on his lower lip as hard as she could. It was his turn to scream, to shove at her. He pulled back a hand to hit her, and she braced herself for the impact. She’d take a beating over rape any day.

But his hand never connected. Instead, he was pulled off of her and slammed into the opposite wall so hard she heard the thud even over the roar of the music. She went with him part of the way, until he finally managed to untangle his hand from her hair and raise it in a misguided effort to defend himself.

Even then it took Jamison a second to realize what was happening, to realize that she was free. When she did, she scrambled several feet down the hallway, desperate to simply get away. But as she prepared to run, she got a glimpse of her rescuer’s face as he pinned Max to the wall.

Ryder.

It was Ryder who had found her. Ryder who had saved her. And Ryder who was currently shouting obscenities as he beat the hell out of the other singer.